|photo by Mafue||via PhotoRee|
columnist James reflects on Spurs' magical run in the Champions League, which came to an unfulfilling conclusion last evening:
April 13 / White Hart Lane / London, England
Leading up to Spurs' second leg Champions League tie with Real Madrid, I had the following vision of a pre-game conversation between Harry and Crouchie which took place just prior to the first leg:
HARRY: “Crouchie, a moment?”
HARRY: “Ah, yes, Crouchie. Well, as you are no doubt aware, we haven’t a snowball’s chance of winning this tournament and qualifying for it next year by going that route, eh?”
HARRY: “Right. Because even if we are able to beat Madrid – and we really have a reasonable shot of doing so, barring some colossally stupid combination of events involving our lone striker getting sent off inside 20 minutes, and/or the manager sticking Jenas on left wing and moving Bale to the right – no one, and I mean no one, is beating Barca anyway. Eh, Crouchie?”
HARRY: “Right. So, see here Crouchie, I need you to go ahead and get yourself sent off inside the first 20 minutes – I’ll take care of the Jenas/Bale part – but really, make it look believable and not intentional. You know, bone headed to the point of endearing sympathy – you’re just the man for it! Then, we can forget about Champions League, and focus on capturing fourth and qualifying for next year, which is what we really need to be doing anyway, seeing as 47% of our current club revenue is based on Champions League-related receipts. And then I'll play the C-team in the second leg and get everyone focused, rested and ready for the Gooners the following week.”
CROUCHIE: “OK Boss. Crouchie just pawn in game of life. Crouchie stay in Madrid and see special friend.”
And so, it appeared that all aspects of my vision were correct, except for Spurs tanking the second leg, which became apparent this evening when the likes of Gallas, Bale, Modric, Van Der Vaart, Pav, etc. walked onto the pitch. To Harry’s credit, the decision was to stay true to Audere Est Facere and "have a go." And rightfully so, as a culminating reward for an exciting and historic year for Spurs, and for the idea that history could in fact be made. After all, Spurs scored seven in one half last season against Wigan.
Alas, Real Madrid is not Wigan. But, that's the point, is it not? You don’t play the Wigans of the world on the flashbulbing, pulsating “European Nights.” How often do the likes of Real Madrid come to the Lane? Damn right Harry, let’s “have a go.” Even down 0-4 on aggregate, tonight was a night to celebrate: celebrate the mere presence of a Real Madrid at the Lane; Spurs’ mere presence in the quarterfinal of Champions League – and the last London team remaining; to celebrate the Lane – packed to the gills and in full throat; the all white uniforms harkening back to the last time Spurs played on a stage like this; and the pressing, attacking, go-for-broke style that served Spurs so well in this competition. And, who knows? There could in fact be a miracle. But if there is to be a miracle, we must get a goal in the first ten minutes.
The game played out true to this promise, with Spurs attacking and seemingy on the verge of getting their first ten minute goal. The match also served as sort of a microcosm for all that has been good and bad about this season.
The good: play was spirited from the kick off. There was end-to-end action and chances both ways, with Bale and Lennon troubling Madrid with their pace down the wings, and Dawson and Gallas excellently defending the superior skill of the Madrid forwards. There were a few excellent saves from Gomes (Live by the Heurelho, Die by the Heurelho). The Yiddos were in full throat the entire game and there is more electricity than one has a right to expect down 0-4. There do not (thankfully) appear to be any injuries. The Lily Whites never give up, expending tremendous effort throughout.
The bad: there was no goal in the first ten minutes, or even the first 92 minutes, for Spurs. There were four non-penalty calls that, while they could have gone either way, all wound up going against Spurs. There was also the now customary inability of a striker to finish: this time Pav on numerous occasions, including a gorgeous set up from Lennon at 26’ that he simply chokes on – booting into the 20th row. There were numerous poor passes, and give-aways from an out-of-form and slow-looking Huddelstone (no Sandro?). There was the now familiar lack of an impact from Van Der Vaart (in all games recently) and Modric (in big games recently). And so it goes… until Gomes (Live by the Heurelho, Die by the Heurelho) at 50’ lets in a truly awful howler of a goal (from Ronaldo, regretfully) that he fumbles after coming in chest high for a seemingly easy catch.
And that’s really, really it. Entertaining match, and a fun Champions League ride. A ride to celebrate with support to be proud of; one that spread the reputation of Spurs and their supporters throughout Europe. One that made the club a lot (for them) of money. But winning this match, or even this leg, ultimately is not nearly as vital as finishing this season in the top 4. So, now, let’s beat the Gooners next Wednesday. C'mon you Spurs!
This is farlieonfootie for April 14.